My family moved to Naples, Florida just after I started fifth grade. It had always been hard for me to break into established groups and gain some level of acceptance. All the rest of the kids had grown up with each other since preschool. This assured that being the new kid in school was going to be tougher than usual.
The first couple weeks passed without me making any progress on the "friend" front. I was becoming known for my social awkwardness. I butted into conversations without realizing that I had just revealed myself as an eavesdropper. I went on too long about subjects no one else cared anything about. It seemed like everyone would be better off if I embraced my fate as a loner.
My afternoons passed much as they did before the move:
- Finishing my homework
- Playing video games until made to do something else
- Repeating step 2 until I had to go to bed
Until the day that Ian came by our apartment. I knew exactly who he was. Everyone in my class seemed to love Ian: he made people laugh; he seemed to be comfortable with any situation; he wasn't athletic, but no one cared. From what I could see, he was everything I wanted to be. Why was he at my door?
"Hey, a bunch of us are at the playground. I heard you lived nearby. Wanna come?"
I never did find out why Ian decided to come get me that day, but it was the start of our friendship. There was someone to talk to at school. My affiliation with him made other kids accept my presence. My entire school life was better, and he was the cause.
Ian was eager to show me his room the first time I went to his house. His Sega Saturn captured my attention. It was expensive, and I couldn't hope to ever have one.
"If you think that's cool, check this out." Ian opened a drawer of his dresser and pulled out one of the many magazines sitting within. He opened to a page and brought it over to show me.
I froze, unsure of what I should be thinking, doing, saying. It was the same reaction I think I would have had if he had dragged an extraterrestrial out of his closet. The sight was just as alien to me. That was the first time I saw a woman naked. After the initial shock, I turned away saying, "That's disgusting."
Ian scoffed. "What're you: gay?"
"No, I just don't want to see it."
"Dude, you don't have to lie to me. My mom says it's normal for guys our age to be interested in sex. That's why she bought the subscription for me."
Guys our age? I couldn't tell how many magazines were in the drawer, and I wasn't exactly in any hurry to get a better look. There were a lot more than a year's subscription, though. I still can't help but wonder how old Ian was when his mom started giving him porn.
"Can we please just go do something else?"
Ian relented but continued to poke fun at me the rest of the day because of my aversion to his collection. The entire event left me uneasy about going back to his house, especially when he invited me to sleep over the next Friday night. What if he got mad that I didn't want to? Would he tell everyone that I was gay? The truth wouldn't matter if it was his word against mine. So I went.
"Have you ever seen From Dusk Till Dawn?"
"No. What's it about?"
"A bunch of people get trapped in a bar with vampires and are trying to get out alive."
"I'm not allowed to watch horror movies."
"Don't be such a pussy. We're watching it."
Ian turned off the lights and put in the tape. As the opening credits started, his mom opened the door.
"What're you boys watching?"
Ian said, "From Tusk Till Dawn. You wouldn't like it. Lots of blood and nudity."
This was a definite "bad to worse" scenario for me. It was easy to scare me with the mundane, so I already wasn't looking forward to this experience. On top of that, naked people were in it. I piped up after Ian. "We're going to fast-forward through the nudity, though."
Ian's mom smiled and closed the door as she left.
"Dude, you don't have to lie to my mom. She's cool."
"I wasn't trying to lie to her. We are fast-forwarding through those parts, right?" Although I was begging, it was disappointing how obvious it was in my voice.
"What is it with you and sex? Of course, we're not."
So I sat in the darkness of Ian's room and watched the movie. As bank robbers abducted a faithless former pastor and his kids, I could feel the dread building. As the group pulled into the parking lot of a Mexican strip club that was open "from dusk till dawn," I felt sick to my stomach. As they entered the bar, as topless women danced in the background, I buried my face between my legs. Ian called me a faggot under his breath.
The sight of nudity made me feel as exposed as the person I was looking at. It made me feel like a predator, like my father. It made me think of what he had done. It made me think of what I wished I could do to him. And all this made me hate myself.
The "heroes" took their final stand against the vampires, armed with super soakers and condoms filled with holy water. As I watched people get torn apart and vampires get blown apart, I became more enthralled with what I was seeing on the screen. In their places, I imagined my father, Mrs. Goldshep and others that had wronged me in some way.
I wanted no part of the nudity, but I welcomed the violence.